Exploring the Gateway Towns Near Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park, renowned for its sprawling landscapes and its treasure-trove of fossilized wood, beckons travelers to delve into a prehistoric world. While the park itself does not offer lodging or a wide range of dining options, nearby towns provide accommodations and culinary delights that complement the park experience. For visitors seeking a place to stay or a taste of local fare, the towns encircling the Petrified Forest are not only gateways to natural wonders but also warm hosts boasting their unique Southwestern charm.
Holbrook is the closest town to the Petrified Forest National Park, located about 20 miles to the west of the park's entrance. It serves as a convenient base for visitors, offering a range of hotels, motels, and dining options. Holbrook embodies the spirit of Route 66, with vintage motels like the Wigwam Village Hotel, which features teepee-shaped rooms that provide a quirky slice of Americana.
When in Holbrook, the local cuisine reflects the region's cultural influences, with Mexican and Native American dishes taking center stage. Try the Navajo taco, an Arizona specialty featuring frybread topped with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and often ground beef or mutton. For those with daring palates, indulging in regional dishes like chili pepper stew or prickly pear cactus cuisine can be a memorable experience.
East of Holbrook, approximately 60 miles from the park, lay Winslow. Strongly associated with the Eagles' song "Take it Easy," Winslow allows for an expanded range of amenities, with a historic downtown area that proudly celebrates its Route 66 and railroad heritage. Visitors will find various hotels, from budget-friendly options to more upscale historic accommodations like the La Posada Hotel, which is an attraction in its own right.
Winslow is a great place to sample Arizona's diverse dining scene, from classic American diners to upscale eateries. One should not miss the chance to savor local dishes such as Posole, a hearty soup made with hominy, meat, and rich seasonings, or enjoy the signature dishes featuring Hatch chiles, a favorite ingredient in Southwestern cuisine.
St. Johns, Arizona
Located about 60 miles south of Petrified Forest National Park, St. Johns offers a quieter alternative for lodging, evoking the peaceful ambiance of a small town. While St. Johns provides fewer accommodations and restaurants than Holbrook or Winslow, the warm community and scenic beauty make up for its modest size.
The cuisine in St. Johns leans towards home-style comfort food, with local diners offering American and Mexican dishes. The proximity to farming and ranching lands ensures that many dishes feature fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
For those willing to venture a bit further, Snowflake is situated about 70 miles southwest of Petrified Forest National Park. This historic town, named for its founders, Erastus Snow and William Flake, presents visitors with a unique blend of pioneer history and modern comforts. Though fewer in number, the hotels and bed-and-breakfasts here provide a homely stay.
Snowflake's dining scene can be a surprise discovery, with restaurants offering everything from traditional Southwestern fare to delightful pastries and sweets in its local bakeries. Don't miss trying the freshly made sopaipillas, a puffy fried pastry often drizzled with honey, which can be found in several eateries around town.
Tasting the Local Flavor
No matter which of these gateway towns you choose as your base, taking the opportunity to try regional dishes will enrich your Petrified Forest adventure. Beyond the popular Navajo tacos and posole, consider sampling other local favorites like green chile burritos, blue corn pancakes, or mesquite-grilled steaks.
To aid in planning your stay and culinary forays near Petrified Forest National Park, consider visiting the following helpful websites:
- TripAdvisor: For reviews and ratings of hotels and restaurants in each town.
- Yelp: Useful for discovering top-rated dining spots and locating those hidden gems.
- Arizona Office of Tourism: Offers comprehensive travel information, including accommodation and dining options near the park.
- National Park Service: Official Petrified Forest National Park website, with visitor information and suggestions for nearby amenities.
When planning your journey, remember that each of these towns is small and retains its Southwestern spirit and hospitality, ensuring that your visit will be not only about stunning natural scenery but also about engaging local culture and flavors. Whether you’re settling down for the night or digging into a plate of local cuisine, the towns near Petrified Forest National Park offer the perfect complement to your desert adventure.